Ranu Ostwal Gaud
Etymologically the word Nation means the one that has been born. It can be seen as an imagined entity. Nation can also be explained as a group of people who allocate and practice same traditions, cultures and narrations of the past times through their common language. So nation without limited margins can also be referred as an imaginary utopian place. It can be undertaken as an amalgamation of history, present social scenario and the cultural heritage throughout.
Since the time of the colonized and colonizers the very notion of nation has been changing. The colonizers tried and implied the feminine connotations to the colonized nation- state making it subordinate and pushing it to the periphery. Nation thus in the contemporary scenario as a social-phenomenon can also be studied as a gendered-state. However the imagined nation when actually comes into existence mingles with culture, society, politics, history and human beings. Culture is an important manmade component of nation. Yet of the two genders, women play a vital role and carry these cultural and national traditions, becoming the inseparable and influential factor of the nation.
Women as nation can be studied and explored under the same category. Women as similes of myths, culture and particularly nation are also the imagined and developing images throughout. In this gendered nation-state, women are tried and compelled to be the biological and cultural producers of a nation. Women have ever been treated as possession/commodity that are to be captured enabling men to control women, pretending their control as security. All this leads to the subordinate and subaltern treatment of women further restricting them in stereo-typical picture – models. Tehmina Durrani has given an accountable reason for these differences and suggests the changes in these nation-narratives as:
“There is a disorder, because we are so silent… We do not want to become inconvenient by putting ourselves in roles which will not be immediately accepted. That silence of ours is a very major reason for social and political malaise. I see lethargy everywhere, in everybody…”1
On the other hand women in the writers’ role and through their writings/narratives try to overcome all these sufferings and inequalities, opening new limitless arrays. Post colonial literature explores the concerns of colonized history, culture, ethnicity with focus on women writers and women in general and the relative issues like gender and subalterns. These narratives highlight women as creators who pass nation’s history and culture to the next generation. The narratives express and give voice to women’s personal, communal, cultural and national ideologies. They draw the differences between the oppressive women class and the oppressing male class on the basis of gender, class and race. In a way these women narratives lead towards the re-visualizing and rewriting of the historical nation-state, bringing women at the narrative center and giving fresh insight.
Tehmina Durrani the writer under study of this paper expresses her views on how these women writings/narratives have become an expression of the courageous opinions on societal problems and evils, also proving a secured planning for the nation, she says:
“One of the things that I became one hundred per cent sure was that one must not be afraid to raise one’s voice against what one feels is wrong and finds painful. If one does not break the silence one can’t correct disorder…”2
Feminist nationalism speculates this gendered nation-state. The feminist critiques of nationalism try to find certain ways for equal citizenship, treatment of women in the civil society and other cultural rights for women in their communities and religious systems within the nation- state. The present paper deals with the specification and conditions of women as simile-models of culture, religion followers and the unnoticed reproducers of a nation with special reference to Tehmina Durrani’s Blasphemy. The paper is an attempt to explore the inner lives of women as nations under the patriarchal bondage and their oppression by the so-called national/communal and religious doctrines. The novel exposes the interim of the rotten and savage pir system and the practices that are continued under the name of pious and true religious rites, which on the contrary leads to the disobedience of ‘God’ leading to blasphemy as misuse of ‘everything’ under God’s name. It is an effort to exemplify the tormenting sufferings of women, kept strictly locked in the Pir’s cautious house, in a nation.
Blasphemy is based on an issue that is much discussed but is rarely written about. Durrani states about the novel, ‘‘This novel is inspired by a true story…’’3 she explains how she met the pir’s wife who revealed the existing crucial livings in the interiors of the pir’s house, their sexual abusing of women disciples and moral ruin of the entire pir system and their followers. This nerve shattering novel is regarding the life of a pir who is blindly followed as religious chief and guardian of a shrine. Blasphemy is a moving story of woman’s harassment, unpracticed principles, forced incest, child abuse, compelled prostitution and pedophilia. It is the story of women’s struggle claiming their inherent rights in a society, torn by the compelled religious traits and extremism.
The word Blasphemy literally means irreverence towards a deity or deities. Theologically the word means the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of god. There also are laws against the blasphemy acts, known as blasphemy laws. These laws differ from nation to nation, also differing their notion and application in respective constitutions and religions. The Islamic countries specifically declare no place for the term blasphemy in the holy Quran and the religion too. However the Islamic religious laws known as Sharia has place for blasphemy leading to various punishments extending to the issuing of Fatwas. Further when politics mingles with the religious affairs of any nation and even overpowers it, here a try of women for their own rights and their use of freedom of speech is incorrectly taken as a blasphemy.
The novel has for its storyline the harrowing experiences of the woman protagonist Heer, a fifteen years beautiful girl and a much older Pir, who is a supposed holy mediator between Allah and the common people. Heer’s forceful marriage to the Pir changes her life up and down, followed by the shocks and disturbances of torturous sexual perversion. However it’s
not only about the domestic upheavals of this imperfect marriage. The idea has been made clear in the writer’s words as:
“I wanted the Pir in the book to be symbolic because it’s about a system, not of just two people, just like my earlier book My Feudal Lord was not about me and my ex-husband. It was the injustice inherent in the system that I was symbolizing…”4
The novel thus documents the Pir family and the nightmares of women and nation within. The novel exposes the deteriorating pir system norms and contents in the nation. The violence and brutality carried out by the pirs is quite disheartening to note. They not only abuse the woman ruthlessly but also disallow them a peaceful life in their houses and nation. The novel is a confrontation about the high esteemed pirs of Pakistan and an attempt to uncover the closet of the so called religion.
The revelation of the Pir’s third marriage to Heer and the believed supposition of his killing his previous wives by unrestrained sexual behavior is shattering. These experiences are expressed by Heer as:
“The preparation, the rituals, the ceremony and the slaughter. I had been sacrificed to a god on earth…”5
Heer desires to live freely, be with her maternal family and be her own self remain unfulfilled. She is not even free of express herself but can only imagine writing letters to her mother and expresses her views about her Pir-husband as:
You were convinced that Baba would have agreed to send me here. Is
that true, Baba? Come to me. Ma. Come and see me here. See what he had done to me. See what has become of me…
‘Ma, take me home. He is not a pir. He is the devil. He…”6
The novel thus tears up the cover of the wicked religious ethics by the Pir in religious and political power. Thus violating the very notion of nation – religion, the novel identically is a representation of the changed form of the nation as an outcome of the dirty politics of the colonizers, stated in the novel as:
“The key to the shrine was handed over to the pir and the peoples’ fates were sealed. The British ruled over a complacent people and the shrine became a prosperous business…”7
The power politics and the social philosophy of marital life also abandon women. They don’t have the right to touch, move, talk, decide or deny. Such is their alienated plight and ruthless existence. The only work allotted to women is to satisfy the men’s sexual desires and upholdings of the patriarchal class. On this Tehmina writes:
“The women in our circle did not seem to look beyond their raised noses. They chattered endlessly about disobedient servants, clothes, jewellery and interior decorations…. Many a day in the lives of these women was completely devoted to the topic of what to wear that evening.”8
These indifferences and torturous lifestyles have been very deeply felt by Heer, and can be quoted as:
“To me, my husband was my son’s murderer. He was also my daughter’s molester. A parasite nibbling on the Holy Book…”9
All such experiences are portrayed through the lives of Heer’s sisters and daughters. Also Kali, Toti, Tara, Cheel, Sakhi bibi these characters expresses their bitter feelings and repulsion of a culturally bonded and religious disintegrated and puzzled women in nation. Heer desperate with the help of Tara flee from her square world prepared to reveal the truths of her Pir
- husband. She wants to make her world round as God made it instead of her bonded married world within the four walls. The novel represents the dilemmatic ups and downs of the women characters by the frantic religious policies. It provokes the hidden humanity against the anti – humanity, non-violence, aggression and terror forced on the women by the religious and political male rulers of a nation. The novel makes enormous lining of the stories of rape, murder and havocs bounded together by the national horror haunting the women and nation. Tehmina Durrani through Blasphemy puts women and especially Heer on trial. Such bias has thus turned the people as grave worshipers rather than real religion believers. The nation – society and religion are thus losing beliefs shattering the foundation of women’s existence, collapsing into pieces. The novel however ends on a positive note of a safe and free physical and emotional life of Heer. Thus Blasphemy, opens a way to women to gain liberation and empowerment from the socio-culturally repressed ones to the rediscovered ones shifting from the marginalized to the centered ones in and of the nation. Thus, the nation, women and individuals must try to re-assess and re-define the communal religious thoughts and power further leading in making of a secular-nation. However, when nation itself stands for a utopian place and women as its essential components are still striving for their secured identity. Thus a question emerges, how long will it take for women to establish their identity in the nation and the possibilities of women as a nation and in a nation?
Muhammad, Najeeb, Her fearless pen, Mid-Day:1998. www.google.com
accessed on 10th February, 2012. Ibid.
Durrani ,Tehmina, Blasphemy , Penguin Books India Pvt.Ltd.: New Delhi, 1998. Muhammad, Najeeb, Her fearless pen, Mid-Day:1998. www.google.com accessed on 10th February, 2012.
Durrani ,Tehmina, Blasphemy , Penguin Books India Pvt.Ltd.: New Delhi, 1998.
Omar, Shabina Nishat, Breaking The Silence in Tehmina Durrani’s My Feudal Lord, www.google.com accessed on 20th Feburary, 2012.
Durrani ,Tehmina, Blasphemy , Penguin Books India Pvt.Ltd.: New Delhi, 1998.